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Cake My Day!: Easy, Eye-Popping Designs for Stunning, Fanciful, and Funny Cakes

Cake My Day!: Easy, Eye-Popping Designs for Stunning, Fanciful, and Funny Cakes

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Cake My Day!: Easy, Eye-Popping Designs for Stunning, Fanciful, and Funny Cakes

567 pagine
4 ore
Mar 24, 2015


The New York Times bestselling authors of Hello, Cupcake! show you how to make a Taxi Cake, a Ladybug Cake, a Siamese Cat Cake, a Guitar Cake, and more.
Those cupcaking geniuses, Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, are back, this time with bigger canvases and bolder creations. Everything that can be done with a cupcake can be done better with a cake—with a twelfth of the effort and loads more wow power, using everyday pans, bowls, and even measuring cups.
Press candy into frosting for an argyle pattern, or use one of the easy new decorating techniques to produce wood grain for a guitar cake. Turn a round cake into Swiss cheese and Brie for April Fool’s Day. Whether you’re a kitchen klutz or a master decorator, you can transform a loaf cake into a retro vacuum cleaner for Mom or bake a cake in a bowl for a rag doll. Need a piñata for a birthday party? Bake the batter in a measuring cup. Or skip the baking altogether, buy a pound cake, and fashion it into a work boot for Dad or a high-top sneaker.
You won’t believe these creations aren’t the real thing—until you take the first delicious bite!
Mar 24, 2015

Informazioni sull'autore

Called “the cake whisperer” by Gourmet, KAREN TACK is a cooking teacher and food stylist. Her work can be seen on the covers of Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Martha Stewart Living, Parents, Real Simple, Nick Jr., and many others.

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Anteprima del libro

Cake My Day! - Karen Tack

Copyright © 2015 by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Tack, Karen

Cake my day / Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

pages cm

Includes index.

ISBN 978-0-544-26369-7 (pbk); 978-0-544-26376-5 (ebk)

1. Cake. I. Richardson, Alan, 1956- II. Title.

TX771.T3145 2015



Book design by Elizabeth Van Itallie

eBook design by Rebecca Springer

Illustrations by Sandy Ploy

Author photos by Jorge Madrigal



It has been an amazing journey creating our four decorating books, and this time out, we are especially proud to be A Rux Martin Book. We have been lucky to have worked with Rux on all four books and have a wonderful recipe for working together: We give her confection, and she gives us class.

We feel bad for authors who can’t call their agents close friends. Martha Kaplan does both jobs exceedingly well, and we love her for it. After all these years working together, we probably don’t need to call her to confer on every minute detail, but we think she might miss the drama.

At times it seems Larry Frascella is the ringmaster of our show. He raises a flag when a creation falls short, applauds us when we hit the mark, and then writes about it three times a week on our blog (you may recognize him as the Cupcake Historian at Thanks to Larry, this show is still on the road.

Ellie Ritt has been with us in the kitchen for more years than we would like to mention. She keeps our batter mixed, our candy organized, and our spirits high. (She also reminds us when it’s time to stop and eat lunch, and we love that!)

Michaela Sullivan has held our hands through the art direction of four books now. We love her patience with our process and her enthusiasm for our designs (nothing encourages us more than hearing which of our projects she has recently made and how they turned out).

Susan Dickinson, our eagle-eyed copy editor, once claimed that reading our manuscript was like training for the brain. After two books with us, Susan must be a genius. Thanks also to Jessica Sherman for her astute editing and ace typist Jacinta Monniere for turning our scribble into typed words. Everyone needs a Laney Everson on their team. She is the person who dotted every i and crossed every t to make sure we had put all the parts in place . . . bet she’s good at the Sunday puzzle!

We are so lucky to have Elizabeth Van Itallie once again bringing style and wit to the design of our book. Many authors live in dread of seeing their pages: We dance around like little kids on Christmas morning anxious to see what Elizabeth gave us.

Sandy Ploy first came to us as the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen. She is now not only a friend but also a collaborator. Sandy’s wonderful cake illustrations help us create all those aha! moments in the book.

Cakes are bigger than cupcakes in so many ways, including organization. Sue Caruso cracked the whip in the kitchen and made our lives a breeze.

Our interns Manuela Rincon and Sandy Arana are now masters at tinting frosting, baking cakes, rolling candy, testing recipes, and listening to our same bad jokes with a smile every time. We couldn’t have had better assistants.

Aunt Hank doesn’t know it, but her 1960s-era, mostly knit, polyester fabrics with wild prints lend panache to our photos every time we use them. They were well hidden in the attic; now they are in our prop closet.

Deb Donahue is the other fashionista in our lives, offering us fabrics, plates, cake stands, and a joke whenever we need it.

Erik and Liam Tack have grown up to be our best test audience. If they give a cake the thumbs-up, we know it turned out well.

Joan McCoy is the gift that keeps on giving. She never lets any of our cakes go to waste, taking slices to her friends (along with copies of our books). She told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on. She may just be Mom to us, but for our books, she has been a one-woman marketing machine.

We have to give a big thanks to the publicity, sales, and marketing team at our publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Everyone on the team has been incredibly supportive of our books over the years, and without their talent and skills, there wouldn’t be a Cake My Day! We are your fans.

We also want to recognize our partners in the cake and candy world. The folks at Duncan Hines, SweetWorks, OXO, McCormick, Reynolds, Ziploc, Sara Lee, the National Confectioners Association, and so many more have been incredibly generous with products and support over the years. We appreciate it.



10-Step Program to a Better Cake

Cosmetic Sugary: Surface Treatments

Any Way You Slice It: Round Cake Pans

Everyday Pan Cakes: Rectangle, Loaf, and Jelly-Roll Cakes

Bowl Me Over: Bowl Cakes

Measure for Measure: Measuring-Cup Cakes

Pound of Fun: Store-Bought Pound Cakes

Tools and Basic Recipes

Basic Tools

Basic Recipes




We have always believed that more is more, and when it comes to decorating, what could be better than having more canvas to fill? That means more candy, more snacks, and more decorating fun.

In our books Hello, Cupcake!, What’s New, Cupcake?, and Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh, My! we use candy and snacks from the grocery aisle to create ingeniously simple cupcakes. And we do it without resorting to fancy decorating tools. In Cake My Day! we use the same ideas to create one-of-a-kind cakes. At first glance, you may ask, Is that really a cake? But on the second look, you’ll say, Hey, I can do that!

Not only do cakes have the advantage of scale, but they can be baked in all sorts of containers. A round pan can create a rainbow cake or a chic handbag cake, and with a few simple cuts, you can transform a round cake into a barnyard rooster cake or even a classical guitar cake.

We’ve turned simple rectangular cakes into a retro toaster and a lawn mower. A loaf cake can become a canister vacuum or a pineapple with Pringle leaves, and a jelly-roll cake changes into a stump cake sure to please any woodsman.

Cakes baked in oven-safe bowls work perfectly for the bellies of our plush-toy collection and serve up a tasty ladybug with doughnut-hole spots. Two-cup oven-safe measuring cups make heads for everything from a zebra and a pink poodle to a piñata.

There’s also a chapter with fantastic designs made from store-bought frozen pound cake. Because they are so firm, these delicious cakes are just right for decorating. We take them straight from the foil container and turn them into boots for your favorite fashionista, a rocket ship, a baseball bat, a quartet of hooty owls, and a dance-party cake that will make you want to twist and shout.

Cake My Day! has loads of new decorating techniques. Smashed sugar fixes all your decorating flaws. Flavor painting delivers vibrant color you can’t get from regular store-bought food coloring, and you can use an artist’s brush to paint intricate details like wood grain. Because we know it’s what’s on the outside and the inside that counts, we show you how to transform cake-mix batter into a cubist cake, a polka-dot cake, a leopard cake, and more. (Throughout the book, recipes labeled Surprise Inside! indicate these treatments.)

Now it’s time to rattle those pans and shake those pots, because we’ve baked so much decorating fun into this book that we’re pretty sure your family and friends will shout, "Go ahead, Cake My Day!"

Please Release Me: prepping baking pans and bowls

Even It Out: evening out batter

Let’s Get Baked: cake baking tips

On the Level: leveling cakes

Getting on Base: bases for cakes

A Cut Above: cutting techniques

General Assembly: assembly techniques

Got Crumbs?: crumb coat

Chill Out: chilling cakes

Icing on the Cake: frosting techniques

1 Please Release Me

Everyday wax (or parchment) paper makes an easy-release lining for your baking pan.

Coat the bottom and sides of the pan with vegetable cooking spray.

For round pans, fold a sheet of wax paper in half. Fold it in half again crosswise. Next, fold the paper on the diagonal by bringing the two folded edges across to the single folded edge to make a wedge shape. Measuring from the tip of the wedge, make a mark equal to half the width of your pan (4 inches for an 8-inch round pan). Cut the open end of the wedge at the mark in a slight curve. Unfold the wax paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and smooth it flat with your fingers. The cooking spray will hold it in place.

For loaf, square, and rectangular pans, allow the wax paper to extend beyond the edges of the pan for ease of removal.

For baking in bowls or measuring cups, simply coat them with the vegetable cooking spray.

2 Even It Out

To bake a cake in an even layer, push the batter all the way to the sides of the pan.

Using an offset spatula makes it easy to move the batter around the pan.

Leave the batter slightly higher at the sides than in the center to help prevent doming as the cake bakes. Less doming means you’ll need to trim less cake when you level it.

For an even cake layer, make sure the baking pans and the oven racks are level.

For stability, place small baking containers on a baking sheet for baking.

3 Let’s Get Baked

Be sure to preheat the oven; 350°F is optimal for most cakes.

An oven thermometer will help you determine whether your oven is well calibrated. You can adjust the heat as necessary to bake at the proper temperature.

Any oven can have hot spots. Get to know your oven and how cakes bake in it.

Bake the cake in the center of the oven. If you are baking more than one cake at a time, place them side by side on the same rack or on separate racks (not one directly above the other).

If you are baking more than one cake or if your oven has hot spots, carefully rotate the pans midway through the baking time.

To test whether the cake is done, insert a toothpick or wooden skewer into the center of the cake. It should come out clean; a few stray crumbs are fine.

If sticky or gummy batter clings to the toothpick, continue baking for a few more minutes and test again.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the pan and remove the cake, invert it onto the rack, and cool completely.

4 On the Level

To cut down on crumbs, place the cake in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes before leveling.

Use toothpicks and a ruler as guides to mark a straight edge on the cake and help keep the knife level.

To cut the cake, use a serrated knife long enough to go all the way through the cake and a gentle sawing motion.

For more control, try holding the knife in one position while turning the cake. Using a cake stand or lazy Susan makes this easy.

5 Getting on Base

If you need to transfer or handle a cake while decorating it, it must be on a firm base.

If you are not using a cake board, you can cut a piece of cardboard to size.

Use a template or ruler to measure the outline of the bottom of the cake on the cardboard.

Use a good pair of scissors to cut the cardboard. You want to support the cake right up to the edge but do not want the base to show.

Wrap the cardboard in foil.

Use a big, wide spatula to transfer the cake to the cardboard base. A flimsy spatula is a disaster waiting to happen.

6 A Cut Above

Use a row of toothpicks as a guide when making a straight cut.

Find the center of the cake using a ruler. To avoid mistakes, always measure twice before cutting.

Use a long, serrated knife for long cuts.

To make an even cut when cutting through the cake, be sure to keep the knife straight.

Use a gentle sawing motion to prevent tearing or smashing the cake.

Use a small knife with finer teeth, like a steak knife, to bevel the edges of the cake. Hold the knife at a 45-degree angle while cutting.

7 General Assembly

Turn the bottom side up to make a flat, even surface for frosting and decorating, with fewer crumbs.

Use frosting as glue to hold cakes together. Spread the frosting as evenly as possible.

If the cake sags or has an uneven side, use the frosting to fill and level between the layers.

Lightly press the top of each cake as you go to sandwich the layers together and make sure the frosting adheres to both sides.

Use plastic drinking straws to stabilize layered cakes. Gently insert the straws through the cake layers, then cut the straws flush with the surface.

After assembling, place the cake in the freezer to chill for about 30 minutes.

8 Got Crumbs?

The crumb coat is like a primer for paint. It glues down any crumbs so that they don’t get in the frosting.

Fill in any gaps or holes in the cake to make a smooth surface.

After spreading some frosting on the cake, squeegee it off using an offset spatula, leaving a thin, smooth layer of frosting behind.

This crumb coat is your chance to smooth over any imperfections and sharpen the edges of the cake.

After crumb coating, place the cake in the freezer to chill for about 30 minutes.

If you are not using the cake right away, you can stop at this point. After chilling the cake, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 2 weeks.

9 Chill Out

A chilled cake means cleaner cuts, sharper edges, and a firmer foundation for decorating.

A chilled cake is easier to transfer and handle. A large cake is more stable if it is kept chilled.

Frosting stays moist longer when chilled than at room temperature. While decorating, return the cake to the freezer for a few minutes to help keep the frosting soft and sticky.

Remember, your assembled cake is often higher than its constituent parts. So before you start assembling, make sure you have room in the freezer or refrigerator for the chilling step.

Many techniques, like flavor painting (see sidebar), require well-chilled frosting so that the color stays on the surface of the frosting rather than mixing in.

Remember that you are placing the cake in the freezer to chill it, not to freeze it to the core. Freezing cake solid and thawing it out several times can break down its structure.

10 Icing on the Cake

Most projects start with a smooth coat of frosting. For best results, use an offset spatula and a generous amount of frosting. You can always remove excess frosting later.

To apply the frosting smoothly, push it in one direction in long, overlapping swipes. Clean your spatula between each swipe so that you get clean strokes.

Make a second pass over the entire cake, using a very light touch, to eliminate any edges or bumps.

To prevent any remaining frosting from drying, keep it covered with plastic wrap until you are ready to use it.

Depending on how you handle it, adding frosting can give a critter cake a coat of fur or a rocket ship cake its panels of steel. Smashed sugar can lend a lawn mower the look of shiny paint or give a zebra its stripes. Flavor painting can put a vibrant glaze on a pumpkin or detail the knothole in a stump. And adding candies, snacks, or patterns to the batter can make a cake even groovier. The techniques illustrated in this chapter will put a pretty face on your cake and fool your eye in projects throughout the book.

Angora Ombré Cake


Argyle Cake

Press and Play

Pinwheel Cake

Sprinkle Appliqué

Love and Peace Cakes

Smashed Sugar

Polynesian Flower Cake

Pouring and Flooding

Pumpkin Cake

Flavor Painting

Polka-Dot Cake

Surprise Inside!

One cake, four surface treatments.

Clockwise from left: Forked Frosting, Sprinkle Appliqué, Flavor Painting, and Smashed Sugar.

Angora Ombré Cake

Surprise Inside!

Makes 24 servings

Combining the soft look of angora with the graduated color layers of ombré, this elegant cake is easy to make using regular food coloring and a table fork for the textured frosting. Slice it for a surprise: It has ombré layers on the inside too.

2 recipes Perfect Cake Mix batter (see recipe) made with French vanilla cake mix

Neon pink food coloring (McCormick)

2 cans (16 ounces each) plus 1 cup vanilla frosting

1Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare three 9-inch round pans (see Please Release Me ). Divide the batter evenly among three bowls (about 3⅓ cups in each). Tint each bowl a different shade of pink by adding 1 drop of the food coloring to one bowl, 3 drops to the second bowl, and 5 drops to the third bowl. Stir the batter in each bowl to mix the color well. (You can add more food coloring to the second and third bowls, as necessary, to create distinct shades of pink.)

2 Spoon each of the colored batters into one of the prepared pans. Spread the batter to the edges and smooth the top (see Even It Out ). Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

3Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Invert, remove the pans, and cool completely.

4Trim the top of each cake level (see On the Level ). Place the darkest-color cake, trimmed side up, on a cardboard cut to fit (see Getting on Base ). Spread ½ cup of the vanilla frosting on top. Place the medium-color cake on top, trimmed side down, and frost the top with ½ cup of the vanilla frosting. Place the lightest-color cake on top, trimmed side down, pressing gently to make the layers even. Spread a thin crumb coating of frosting (see Got Crumbs? ) on the cake, filling any gaps, and smooth. Place the cake in the freezer until set, about 30 minutes.

5Spoon ½ cup of the remaining vanilla frosting into each of 4 separate bowls. Using the food coloring, tint each bowl of frosting a different shade of pink, from dark to light (the lightest shade needs only a drop or two). Spoon each color into a separate freezer-weight ziplock bag. Press out the excess air and seal the bags.

6Snip a ¼-inch corner from each bag of frosting. Starting with the darkest frosting, pipe a row of frosting around the base of the cake. Continue adding more rows to reach ¾ inch up the side of the cake. Smooth with an offset spatula. Use a fork to pull the frosting in a downward and outward motion (see Forked Frosting ), in horizontal overlapping rows, to the top of the piped frosting. Repeat the piping and forking around the sides of the cake using the remaining 3 shades of pink frosting, going from darkest to lightest. Spread the remaining vanilla frosting on the top of the cake in an even layer. Add any leftover pink frosting in a 2½-inch circle in the center of the top of the cake. Starting from the outer edge and working in concentric circles, fork the frosting on top of the cake, pulling it out and up.


Frosting is the simplest way to spruce up a cake. Sometimes all you need to do is spread it smooth. Then there are projects that benefit from a special texture, like furry for a teddy bear or scalloped for the scales on a fish. To master these techniques, spread some frosting on the back of a cake pan, pick a tool, and practice until you get a feeling for how the tool shapes the frosting. You can always scrape the frosting off the pan and reuse it.

Forked Frosting

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